Qin yong (A Terra-Cotta Warrior) (1990)




Director:     Siu-Tung. 

Starring:     Yimou Zhang (Tian Fong),  Li Gong (Winter / Lili Chu),  Rongguang Yu (Bai Yun Fei),  Suk Bung Luk (Emperor Qin),  Lo Cheung Chiu (General Kam),  Hian Cheung Ng (Mong Tee),  Pok Man Tse (Tsui Fok),  Tinx Chiu Chow (Apprentice),  Hong Choon Fok (Lady Supervisor).

in the Qin Dynasty the emperor builds an army of terra-cotta warriors


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the first part of the movie.

One of the mausoleum construction crew tells the boss Mong, that they are two days behind schedule.  His Majesty wants the project to be completed within four months.  If they don't hurry up, they will all be beheaded.  Mong says he has recruited 50,000 peasants and they should be able to finish the project on time.  The peasants are pulling a statute up hill.  The ropes break.  Many peasants are run over and killed by the runaway statue. 

His Majesty hunts a deer in the sands.  He jumps off his horse and onto the deer and pins him down.  Then with his sword he kills the deer.  A man with the other men accompanying the Emperor hits the Emperor in the back with an arrow from a crossbow.  The men loyal to him are cut down with swords.  The Emperor gets up and onto his horse and makes a run  for it.  He is chased by the assassins.  Mong sees the problem and races toward the assassins.  He is able to kill the men that threatened the Emperor.

The Emperor's body guard arrives saying for being late they should be punished.  The Emperor obliges them, slicing them up with his sword.  He then asks the identity of the man who saved him.  He is Mong Tian Fong, manager of the construction of the Imperial Mausoleum.  The Emperor gives him the title of Chamberlain and a royal sword.  Tian Fong is told to follow the Emperor.

Tian Fong entrusts the construction project to a friend.    He tells the friend that he will be going to the palace.  His friend tells him to be careful because there is the sound of rebellion throughout the country.   The friend also wonders how Tian Fong can be so loyal to an Emperor who is so tyrannical and ruthless. 

On his way to the palace Tian Fong sees a book burning.  One man desperately tries to save the classics from being burned.  Tian Fong picks up one to the classic books and tosses it over to the man.  A pretty woman watches him do this.  She is the daughter of the man.  She goes to her father and finds him paralyzed with fear. 

Tian Fong walks with the Emperor, who talks of unifying the country and standardizing the language and measurements.  The Emperor shows him a coin that he will have minted after he has unified China.  He also talks of all the things he could accomplish, if he could only live forever.  Tian Fong speaks up and says longevity is not something under man's control, but his name will certainly live on for generation after generation. 

The Emperor has men experimenting on rabbits to test elixirs designed to extend life.  The experimenters say they now have a rabbit that has lived for seven years and is still as young as ever.  The Emperor wants to know if it will work on a man.  Tian Fong volunteers to taste it, but he has a rival, namely General Kim, for the attentions of the Emperor.  The General also offers to taste the elixir.  The Emperor says the men will have a duel and whoever wins will be the one to test the elixir.  As a duel is prepared the rabbit dies, but the experimenters hide the carcass from view.  They then get a new rabbit to replace the dead one. 

Tian Fong wins the competition by besting the General in a sword fight.  The Emperor tells Tian Fong to stay close by him.  He will have an important job for him to do.   The Emperor has General Kim try the elixir and he is almost immediately beset with pain and falls to the ground.  Now the Emperor turns his wrath on the alchemists.  After ten years of experiments, the alchemists still do not have a longevity elixir.  He gives the order to bury them all alive.  And he says General Kim will have the honor to be his terracotta warrior, who will guard his mausoleum forever. 

An alchemist hoping to save his own life tells the Emperor that there is an island in the eastern sea where the deities live who have the elixir.  It's a long journey but they could go there and get the elixir back for His Majesty.  The Emperor says okay, he will give them one last chance.  He tells Tian Fong to supervise them as they prepare for the journey. 

Tian Fong helps escort some pretty women to the palace.  One woman tries to run away and the others turn to look..  The other women are told to turn back around as it is none of their business.  At the palace the women are examined.  A woman named Winter pulls a long hair pin from her hair and threatens to stab anyone touching her.  She tries to escape.  Winter tries to cross a stream but Tian Fong stops her.  He gets slashed across his left cheek bone with the hair pin, but he is able to take the hair pin away from Winter.  He tells her to behave herself and don't do anything else silly.  

Tian Fong is practicing swordsmanship when he hears Winter playing music with bowls filled with different amounts of water.  One of the bowls breaks and it messes up Tian Fong's rhythm.  Winter uses the broken piece to cut his left wrist.  Tian Fong rushes over to bandage the wound.  She stares at his face and then slowly touches the wound on his cheek.  Their moment is interrupted by the arrival of an underling.  He reports that His Majesty is angry at Tian Fong's absence.  He must report immediately.  Tian Fong tells Winter not to hurt herself again. 

Tian Fong arrives just as the procession moves out with the Emperor in a palanquin.  The Emperor just looks at Tian Fong and then proceeds.  Tian Fong now has to stay kneeling there all by himself on the steps to the palace.  Winter thinks about him just kneeling there in the rain. When the Emperor returns he is happy with Tian Fong because he has proved his loyalty by remaining kneeling.  Tian Fong is brought into the mausoleum.  The Emperor says he is to say nothing about the mausoleum.  There are thousands of terra-cotta warriors there to guard his mausoleum forever.  Also there are criminals who have been sentenced to death.  They will be used in elixir experiments.  If one of the elixirs works the surviving man will live an eternal life with the Emperor.   

Tian Fong visits with Winter again.  She asks him if the islands are very far from here and is told yes they are.  She throws her arms around Tian Fong's neck and they hug.  Winter cries and then runs away, leaving her silk shoes behind.  At night she can't sleep and gets up.  She soon finds Tian Fong.  They lay together.  When they sit up, Tian Fong tells her that they have committed an unpardonable sin for which they will be condemned to death.  The Emperor would never let them be together.  They decide to kill themselves so they can be together.  An old man interrupts and advises them just to act as if nothing happened, because if the Emperor finds out about them, e would be so furious that many young men and women would also be killed along with them.  Tian Fong tells Winter that she better go tomorrow.  He leaves. 

The alchemist is thrilled.  He says he has finally gotten his longevity elixir.  Winter tells him that if would give the elixir to His Majesty, then they wouldn't have to search for the islands.  But the alchemist says that the elixir is made but they don't know if it will work or not.  The master and a servant throw all the old elixirs away. 

The next day a big procession proceeds across the dry land.  Winter and Tian Fong keep an eye on each other.  At night Winter steals something from a box.  The alchemist chases after her.  An alarm goes up that their vessels are leaving.   The men rush down to the water.  They catch Winter and tie her up.  They tell Tian Fond that the vessels have gone but they have arrested Winter.  She tells her love that the vessels may be gone, but she is staying here with him no matter what.  He cuts the ropes from around her body. 

For this Tian Fong is to be executed.  They tie him to a post.  Winter still has the small object in her hand.  She appears before Tian Fong in front of a burning structure.  The Emperor tosses his coin.  If it comes up tails he will spare Tian Fong's life.  The coin comes up tails and Tian Fong is spared.  But the Emperor says that Winter will now have to jump into the fire to sacrifices herself to the terracotta warriors.  Tian Fong wants to save Winter so he asks the Emperor for the honor of guarding his Imperial Mausoleum forever.  She rushes to him and they kiss.  She then turns around and rushes into the flames. 

Assistants release Tian Fong and then put clay all over his body and all over his face. 


The second part of the movie seems more like slap-stick and is too silly to really bother with here because it has Winter as a 1930s young woman who runs into Tian Fong who is still guarding the mausoleum of the first Emperor of a united China.  

There really isn't much history here except the mention of the terracotta warriors and that the Emperor was rather ruthless.  Other than that it's not much.  Gong Li was good as the crazy movie-starlet who wants to be the main actress of a movie. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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